FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
44 hours ago - 3 Likes
Giant Kangaroo forward Willie Mason on Tuesday warned Australia faced a big mental challenge and would need to weather an early physical onslaught in its rugby league test against New Zealand on Saturday.
Mason and the rest of the Kangaroos arrived in Auckland on Tuesday looking to complete a double following a 48-6 victory over the Kiwis in Sydney in July.
Bulldogs powerhouse Mason is well tuned in transtasman battles having played in both the July game and last year's victory over the Kiwis in Wellington.
"They are always physical the New Zealanders, you just have to weather the storm," Mason said at Sydney Airport.
"They are going to have big Ruben Wiki and the Cayless brothers, they are just going to be charging at you, bashing you, it's going to be one of those games where it's a big mental challenge for most of the forwards.
"We're just going to have to roll our sleeves up and play tougher than them and then later in the game when it starts opening up a bit, play a bit of footy on them."
Coach Chris Anderson was excited at the prospect of Mason and debutant Richard Villasanti providing impact off the bench.
Asked about the key to an Australian victory on Saturday, Mason said: "We have to win the ruck, we have to slow the big forwards down, just do the little things that the Aussies usually do."
Anderson anticipated the big New Zealand forwards would try to set up a platform for the untried combination of teenage halfback and test debutant Thomas Leuluai and five-eighth Nigel Vagana, who normally plays in the centres.
"They will use their big forwards coming at us and try and roll over the top and have Nigel and Leuluai in behind them feeding off the scraps," Anderson said.
While Australia has the luxury of two goal kickers in Roosters second-rower Craig Fitzgibbon and centre and test debutant Michael De Vere, New Zealand coach Daniel Anderson does not have an established kicker.
A number of players have experience with fullback Motu Tony and nominated bench player Sione Faumuina among the major contenders.